What’s Your Avianca Refund Status? Hard To Tell In This Dumpster Fire

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What's Your Avianca Refund Status? Hard To Tell In This Dumpster Fire

What’s Your Avianca Refund Status? Hard To Tell In This Dumpster Fire

Tracking your Avianca refund status and actually getting your money back is a total dumpster fire. It’s beyond annoying to the point where it’s either laughable or intentionally backhanded at this point. I’m sure I’m not the only one having issues with Avianca hoarding my money for a long time. If you’re not in this situation, let this serve as a caution to you.

Why Avianca Owes Me Money

“Flights were canceled” is the obvious answer to why Avianca owes me money. Unfortunately, there are 3 separate instances for why they need to refund me at this point. I’ll refer to them as A, B & C, to make it simple.

A-May of 2020, we booked a crazy fare for $200 round-trip between Brazil and NYC, flying via Bogota. These were economy flights my wife and I booked together on Avianca metal. The flights were for early 2021. During the time of booking, they overcharged us when converting from Colombian pesos to US dollars. They overcharged to the tune of $926 between the 2 of us.

B-December of 2020, we canceled a LifeMiles award booking (Avianca’s loyalty/miles program). We got the miles refunded in 7 days but needed a refund of fees/taxes for $351.

C-January of 2021, the flights from A were later canceled by Avianca. Colombia prohibited flights from/to Brazil. Thus, the $926 from A doesn’t cover this new refund request of the original, correct fare: $200 per person.

In total, that’s $1,677 dollars. 

Because Avianca made us fill out multiple refund request forms, we have 1 form for A, 1 form for B, and 4 forms for C (my outbound, my return, my wife’s outbound, my wife’s return).

Strap in as Avianca takes us into the Twilight Zone while trying to find an updated refund status and get my money.

What's Your Avianca Refund Status? Hard To Tell In This Dumpster Fire

Avianca’s Customer Service Is Non-Existent

After realizing that Avianca charged the wrong price in A, I contacted their Twitter customer service team. After telling me they created a case for me, they completely passed the buck. They stopped replying to me, even just trying to ask, “Hi, is there an update? Thanks.” I guess they assumed their work was done.

After multiple attempts and spending a cumulative 7 hours on chat & phone calls, I was repeatedly told that these cases can only be handled by email. More than a month later, I got the email address for my case manager. She never replies to my emails. Once a month since June of last year, she sends me an automated email thanking me for my patience as they work through a lot of refund requests. They absolutely refuse to commit to a timeframe for the refund.

In September, I filed a complaint with American Express. They investigated, and Avianca told them they’d refunded me. Total lie. I proved it to American Express, and they’re now fighting with each other. However, American Express has tentatively credited my account for the $926. They warned me that this could change, depending on documents Avianca may produce in the case.

I also filed a Department of Transportation complaint in the US and Consumer Defense complaint in Brazil, since the flights involved those 2 countries. Avianca provided an automated response to both that was a copy/paste of the automated email I get every month. Neither complaint was worth the time I spent writing it, clearly.

What's Your Avianca Refund Status? Hard To Tell In This Dumpster Fire
Status=received. No action taken since May 2020.

For laughs, this is the refund status of our request from May last year. “Received.” No action taken, such as processed, paid, analyzed…nothing.

Result for A=Avianca lies, but Amex is helping me out.

What about refund B? Last week, I sent a public tweet to Avianca and their customer service asking why it takes so long to get a refund. A few consumer complaint organizations and passenger rights groups retweeted it, and Avianca sent me a private message asking for my refund request numbers.

While they’ve never replied to me after I sent the info, there is a pending refund on my credit card for the value of refund request B. The Avianca refund status website says “pending to authorize” on that reference number. An award booking (flights on their own metal) canceled in January gave me a refund of the cash portion in 2 months. No communication or updates, but at least I’m getting the money.

Result for B=no communication, but the money is en route.

Avianca canceled our flights for C. Instead of leaving them as ‘open tickets’, we wanted our money back. Colombia’s government prohibited flights from/to Brazil, and our flights were Brazil to NYC via Colombia, so that impacted us. We have no idea when/if we’d fly Avianca again and have no desire to let them sit on more of our money after the fiasco with A above.

Within 2 hours of the cancelation notice, I filled out the separate requests for each flight sector (why is this necessary??). The annoying part is that they allocated my whole cost onto the outbound flight (request 1) and $0 on request 2. The same for my wife.

Guess which refund tracking number says “finished” and which one has no updates?

Again, no communication on this at all, despite trying to get info via chat or the tweets mentioned in B. If it keeps dragging out, I’ll engage Amex again to tell them there’s a new development.

Result for C=no communication, no idea what’s happening.

What's Your Avianca Refund Status? Hard To Tell In This Dumpster Fire

Final Thoughts

At first glance, it looks great to have a website to track your Avianca refund status. However, if they don’t do anything with it or update it, let alone not communicate with you, the website is essentially pointless. Trying to deal with Avianca has been a complete dumpster fire.

They sent me an automated email as an update to my DOT complaint. They never replied at all to my complaint via the Brazilian Consumer Defense agency. I get an automated email every month but no actual human engagement. This while they send pre-formulated emails to thank me for my patience, which is ironic since I have no patience with them at this point.

If you’re thinking about booking something with Avianca, consider how much money you’ll be floating and how long you’re willing to wait for a refund if things go South. They’ve had a bad past year, and I’m not personally willing to float them any money until I get every cent back that they currently owe me.

Ryan S
Travel hacker in 2-player mode, intent on visiting every country in the world, and can say "hello" or "how much does this cost?" in a bunch of different languages.

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24 COMMENTS

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24 COMMENTS

  1. Ryan how did you get others to reply to your tweet, I don’t have much of a social media presence but I need someone to help me out here

    • Azar – I don’t have a presence on Twitter either. It just kind of happened. I think there are consumer advocacy accounts that look for complaints and try to boost them to make sure they get the proper attention/get resolved.

      • Ryan,
        Thanks for the response, do you have the Twitter accounts that’s jumped into help? I have 7 of my friends that all need refunds.

        Thank u!

        • I just spent 2 hours trying to find them and couldn’t. Sorry 🙁 I recommend filing Department of Transportation complaints and being very clear that Avianca has done nothing for anyone you know, they give an automated response without action, and that you need enforcement–not just a message. Demand enforcement / punishment in the DOT complaint. If flights also include Europe, you have EU261 rights also. You can file complaints with Colombia’s government possibly, but I haven’t done that and don’t know anything about it. File charge-back complaints with the credit card used for the purchase. Try all of those and hopefully something will move forward.

  2. I hope you get your money back, but to me this is a prime lesson in not booking international flights on a bankrupt foreign carrier in the middle of a global pandemic.

  3. Same crap with Avianca. We cancelled in March 2020. Our status for 2 tickets on same flight was Accepted. We were told 30, then 90 days then “who knows” after we sat on the phone for an hour each time. In January 2021 we got an email that said one was being refunded and the cash would arrive on Visa card in 30 days. But four calls later they can’t explain why the second ticket on the same flight was denied. We did get cash for one but we are still out $1600 for a business class ticket. We were told by a supervisor that we have a dispute number and to not bother calling back. We will only get an email. And we were not given an email address for the case manager handling this now escalated dispute.

    • Linda – same song and dance for my story. It was 30 days, then 90, now “we don’t know”. It took forever to get the email of my case manager, but getting that email was pretty pointless since she won’t reply to me. But at least the fact I emailed her with documents and the facts of my situation was helpful to show to Amex, which made them take my side.

  4. Issues reporter with Lifemiles Avianca ticket back in November 2020 on business class tickets to Africa flying Turkish. Lifemiles with Avianca numbers tickets took my miles 316k plus close to $400 cash and charges for over the phone booking fee . Still fighting with them for the cash and the miles that I bought. For the miles that I bought I am trying to get refunded and so far credit card gave me back . I reported with over 70 page documents via emails and documented phone calls to Avianca with screen shot. Don’t buy Lifemiles even if the promotion is 10 times the mile . I can not speak about Avianca tickets but I won’t buy any airline ticket except US based airlines for the next 4-5 years unless there is not other option.

  5. I had a similar issue with another Latin Airline before the Panademic on a fully refundable ticket. The only thing that worked was the filing of a complaint to the relevant County Tax Authorities on the basis that the Tax had not been properly declared because the sale was not Taxable. Once the Airline received a copy of this Filing, remarkably a full refund was received. Airlines game the system to avoid repayment using various techniques to evade or delay action. But they are very loathe to get into Taxation issues with Govt Authorities and will avoid this at all costs.

      • Much depends on the Territory/s of the ticket sale and local rules. But in essence, Tax is charged on the sale at the time of purchase but prior to the flight being used or not. This Tax should be passed on to The Tax Authorities at the appropriate time of Declaration if used. But, if it is not properly declared or declared as an un-used, non-taxable flight ticket, but then not subsequently refunded to the purchaser, this means that (allegedly) flight Tax is being collected under relevant Regulations, but neither paid over to The Tax Department, nor refunded back to the passenger. In other words, The Tax Authority Rules are being used as a method to accrue a windfall revenue on that sale because the return of these funds to the purchaser is being frustrated deliberately.

        • In my ticket, I just read through the taxes and there’s sales tax for US and for Brazil, as well as the normal 9/11 security fee, departure fee, & customs fee for international arrival. Looks like the complaint then would be “BR” code tax collection in Brazil and all these entry/security/exit fees for the US government that were never used – is that right?

          • I am not an expert on Brazilian Tax Law, but here in Europe many APD Taxes and add-ons are paid and due on use only, not on collection at the time of purchase. i.e If the flight is not used, most Taxes and charges are not due for payment. Airlines will present an accounting Ledger declaring their liabilities, but only “after the event”. Then if, for example, a Seller allegedly keeps your money because you didn’t use the ticket and so doesn’t return it to you in a reasonable time, they are allegedly using the Tax system to generate exceptional revenues which are not due for payment and if then, not repaid to the purchaser, so acquiring a windfall profit, which only occurs because the original sale included Taxes & “Charges”, which were only due at the time of travel. What was interesting is once I submitted this scenario, I received a full refund immediately. Make of that as you will!

  6. @Ryan In this type of scenario, where you have a credit card dispute, do you think the airline would take punitive action against you (i.e. closing your FF account, confiscating your miles, issuing a debit memo, etc.)

    • Not to say that they can’t or won’t, but that would be a shaky legal area to enter into (customer attempts to assert legal rights, airline takes retribution). Now what court you’d take that to, I don’t know. I guess it’s possible, but considering I have about 382 miles in my LifeMiles account, I personally am not worried about it and would rather get my $1000 back.

      • Yeah I’d be doing the same thing if I was in your shoes, but I have a significant amount of miles in my account so I’d be nervous.

        “In September, I filed a complaint with American Express. They investigated, and Avianca told them they’d refunded me. Total lie. I proved it to American Express, and they’re now fighting with each other. However, American Express has tentatively credited my account for the $926. They warned me that this could change, depending on documents Avianca may produce in the case.”

        With regards to this part of the story, isn’t it super easy for Amex to verify who is telling the truth? For example, lets say you paid with your Amex Plat card, Avianca would’ve issued the refund to the original form of payment so all Amex would need to do is go through the last X # of months worth of transactions on your Plat card. Once they confirm that no such refund exists it should be open-and-shut for them right?

        What am I missing? The only exception to that logic I can think of is if Avianca is claiming they issued the refund in a different form of payment (i.e. direct ACH to your checking account or something like that) but that would seem very irregular…

        • At first, Amex closed the case saying I’d been refunded according to the airline. It took multiple calls to get someone to dispute it properly, because the next agent sent Avianca a complaint that I hadn’t authorized the charge, which they proved I did obviously. So it took a few rounds to get an Amex rep to actually figure out the real situation and file the paperwork correctly. By this point, I’m sure Avianca was annoyed that they’d received 4 disputes from Amex for the same ticket. That dragged it out and Amex is now fighting with Avianca to issue a refund while I’ve been tentatively refunded by Amex itself during the process.

          • Ah I see. Some incompetence from Amex mixed in alongside the incompetence from Avianca. Fun!

  7. Similar issue when an EVA Air flight booked with Lifemiles got cancelled last year. The taxes refund goes through Avianca. I was told to wait! After waiting 3 months, I called and talked to a live person (!). That person told me that it would be a very long wait (quite honest).
    At that time I called Citi and they allowed me to contest the charge (14 months after the original charge) and I got refunded $150 out of the original $160 charge. Avianca/Lifemiles didn’t fight the chargeback AFAIK.

    • Jdr – interesting story, thanks for sharing. Surprising that they didn’t fight it, considering they’re supposedly still telling Amex that either they refunded me or that they’re working on it and this is unfair–changes depending on the month.

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